I like camping, but after this, I think I’ll stick to Shell Island.
Director: Chris W. Mitchell
Starring: Gijs Scholten van Aschat, Carine Crutzen, Bart Klever
Genre: Foreign Language/Horror
Release Date: May 1st 2014
It’s pretty fair to say that roughly 99% of the straight to DVD horror films that you find in your local supermarket charts are poor at best, usually somewhere between a low rent Paranormal Activity knock-off and whatever The Asylum is churning out these days, but sometimes, just sometimes you discover a film that really and truly shouldn’t get lumped in with the dross, this is exactly what I discovered when I took a chance on Dutch psychological horror film The Pool (De Poel).
Trying to find a quiet and secluded spot for a week of camping in the wild, two families take a chance and decide to sneak into a deserted nature reserve and set up camp beside a picturesque pond in the middle of the woods. The perfect place for some fishing, sunbathing and encountering mystical spirits, you know standard stuff really.
Now I can’t say I’ve watched too many Dutch horror films and some of you may be put off by the fact that it’s subtitled, but I’ve always found that it leads to a better cinematic experience, with the subtitles forcing you to pay more attention to the film and the lack of Hollywood cliches, especially jump scares, found footage and a forced twist near the end, all of these don’t seem to of made their way into continental cinema as much as it has infected the American genre.
The Pool starts off with middle-aged parents Lennaerd (van Aschat) and Sylke (Crutzen) taking their two teenage sons Jan (Hendrickx) and Marco (Peters) on a camping holiday, along with family friend Rob (Bart Klever) and his daughter Jenny (Katja Herbers), the backstory is soon established, with rob and Lennaerd have recently been made redundant from the bank they both worked for, not able to afford a big expensive holiday, they decide that sneaking into a nature reserve is a perfect way to enjoy a cheap holiday away from it all.
It’s fair to say that no one was particularly happy about the situation, with the pools dark presence exploiting hidden desires, fantasies and betrayals to drive the group apart, infecting their minds with dreams and nightmares, you’re never sure if what you’re seeing on screen is real or a fragment of the character’s imagination, the unravelling of a close group over the course of three days is done in an interesting and stylish way, something that is both a credit to the writer/director Chris W. Mitchell and the actors involved.
What’s most surprising about this film is that it’s Mitchells directorial debut movie, avoiding the obvious route of using found footage to save money, instead going for a more traditional set up to produce a more expansive and thought-provoking film, using the bleak yet beautiful surrounding to show just how isolated the group are, with the malevolent entity presence being felt from the minute they arrive at the pool, remaining hidden throughout, the film doesn’t bog itself down with convoluted lore and backstories; it tells you what you need to know and lets your mind make up the rest, something that I found rather enjoyable, keeping me guessing right up to the final scene as to what is going to happen next.
The Pool is the perfect example of a horror film using little rather than a lot, to produce a thoroughly enjoyable psychological genre film, leaving room for a sequel if needed, but leaving you content if there isn’t to be one, it’s a credit to the Dutch film making and even more so for Chris W. Mitchell, as it’s an impressive debut as both director and writer, producing a movie that is well worth the £7 that it cost to pay for the film, so if you like your horror films to have a massive dose of tension, a dab of foreboding and a plot that doesn’t spoon feed the audience everything, then this is the film for you, in fact, the only downside I found for the film is that there doesn’t seem to be a blu-ray available to buy just yet.